Hanging out with Chico’s rock-star pedi-cabbie
As students stream through the streets of downtown Chico at night, a familiar sound can often be heard rising from the distance. A faint heartbeat at first, the volume increases until thumping beats begin to resonate through your body as a pedicab sporting a car stereo with two speakers and a 10-inch subwoofer rolls into view.
There are some who simply stare at Mike Griffith (aka Mike G) as he dances atop his G-Ride party bike. Others who know him well raise their drinks, call his name, and lose inhibition as they dance to his music, as if Caesar and his chariot have returned to Rome from conquest.
Griffith has been spreading the music and giving rides on his tricked-out three-wheeler in Chico for four years. In that time he has arguably become, if not the most popular, the most notorious pedicab driver among Chico State students.
Taking a ride with Mike G, one would be foolish to think the cheers and finger points were for anyone but the cabbie. As you sit on his cab, which has the grubby comfort of an old yet faithful couch, his music thunders from underneath you. The upbeat dance music plays in harmony with the surrounding college setting. As you sit behind Griffith, you can see the energy bubble inside him as his body bounces to the beat.
“I’m a dancing fool on top of a bike,” Griffith said. “When I’m on my bike, I feel like I’m in a different world. Most people don’t recognize me unless I’m on my bike.”
The seemingly carefree world Griffith now maneuvers through is drastically changed from the one from which he came. Originally from San Jose, Griffith was homeless and a drug addict for 2 1/2 years in Chico before he started his pedicab business. Determined to make a better life for himself, Griffith attended Narcotics Anonymous meetings and cleaned himself up. It was at that point he knew he wanted to start giving back to the community.
“N.A. saved my life. I still go back to meetings to talk to them,” Griffith said. “I try not to look back at those bad times, but I also try to help those who were like me.”
Griffith started pedicabing soon after and saved enough money to transform his cab into a party on wheels. Griffith rides his cab full time, day and night. Well, except when it rains.
“The one thing I dislike about Chico is the rain; it shuts me down,” Griffith said. “But I don’t think I’ll ever leave. The love I feel from everyone is amazing, especially from the college crowd.”
Many in that college crowd feel the same way about Mike G. Jocelyn Doyle, a senior communications major at Chico State, has known Griffith since her freshman year.
“I remember Mike used to pick us up on the steps of Whitney Hall, and at the end of the night he would bring us back home,” Doyle said. “He always goes out of his way because he really cares and wants to make sure everyone gets home safe.”
“Mike really tries to get to know everyone—it’s not just a front he puts on to get you to ride,” said Erin Sorensen, a junior recreation student at Chico State. “He is a great guy, and he always plays really good music. He makes the pedicab ride fun.”
There are many stories that students have of Griffith’s kindness. And he has stories as well (many that parents would probably never want to hear)—stories of carrying passed-out people to their apartments; bungee-cording guys to his cab so they don’t fall out; and having well more than seven girls riding in his cab at the same time.
“It’s my job to flirt with the girls, I can’t help it,” Griffith said jokingly. “I tell them I’m 29, even though I’m 40. It helps my business.”
Despite the entertaining, never-dull show of drunken debauchery, there is one decidely unfestive night that sticks in Griffith’s mind.
“One night a girl was sitting on the railroad tracks. She’d had a bad fight with her boyfriend, and to me it was obvious why she was sitting on those tracks,” Griffith said. “So I told her to hop on my bike, and we just rode around for a couple of hours. I talked some sense into her, and took her home.”
Griffith says that on any given night, he averages about 25 rides. Despite his popularity among many in the student populace, Griffith says there is little tension between himself and other cab drivers.
“Everybody has their little rifts, but I try to talk to those who are not doing as well as me,” Griffith said. “Most of them do listen to my advice and respect me.”
Thaddeus Svoboda, a fellow pedicab driver, has known Griffith for more than a year, and respects the effort he has put in.
“Mike is a very hard worker and a nice guy,” Svoboda said. “He makes the pedicab ride very appealing.”
Griffith says the job is rejuvenating and he doesn’t see himself ever stopping. He is planning on expanding his business to add more riders thanks to his sponsors, Play Time 4 You and Mobile Excitement.
Griffith says one of the hardest parts of his job is seeing the seniors he has known for four and five years graduate. But he also knows he has a new generation each year to give rides to, and he has some words of advice for them.
“For the freshmen, make sure to always walk in at least pairs,” Griffith said. “Chico is a blessed place, but at the same time you never know what’s around the corner. Also, get used to Chico and being away from parents first before you start partying too much. I think a lot of kids make that mistake.”
Even though many students will graduate and move on to the real world, there will be some of those who won’t forget Mike G anytime soon.
“I will really miss his warmth and his friendship,” Doyle said. “He always sends me texts on the holidays and dresses up in costumes, and I’m going to miss that. He really became a friend during my college years.”